Authors: Preece, Rogers & Sharp
Case Studies
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2 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Chapter Index
The Process of Interaction Design

Chapter Introduction | Web Resources | Assignment comments | Teaching Materials

Until the mid-1990s, interaction designers concerned themselves largely with developing efficient and effective user interfaces for desktop computers aimed at the single user. This involved working out how best to present information on a screen such that users would be able to perform their tasks, including determining how to structure menus to make options easy to navigate, designing icons and other graphical elements to be easily recognized and distinguished from one another, and developing logical dialog boxes that are easy to fill in.

Advances in graphical interfaces, speech and handwriting recognition, together with the arrival of the Internet, cell phones, wireless networks, sensor technologies, and an assortment of other new technologies providing large and small displays, have changed the face of human-computer interaction. During the last decade designers have had many more opportunities for designing user experiences. The slew of technological developments has encouraged different ways of thinking about interaction design and an expansion of research in the field. For example, innovative ways of controlling and interacting with digital information have been developed that include gesture-based, tactile-based, and emotion-based interaction. Researchers and developers have also begun combining the physicaland digital worlds, resulting in novel interfaces, including mixed realities, 'augmented realities, tangible interfaces, and wearable computing. A major thrust has been to design new interfaces that extend beyond the individual user: supporting small-and-large-scale social interactions for people on the move, at home, and at work.

While making for exciting times, having so many degrees of freedom available within which to design can be daunting. The goal of this chapter is to consider how to design interfaces for different environments, people, places, and activities. To begin with, we give an overview of paradigmatic developments in interaction design. We then present an overview of the major interface developments, ranging from WIMPs (windows, icons, menus, pointer) to wearables. For each one, we outline the important challenges and issues confronting designers, together with illustrative research findings and products. It is not possible to describe all the different types of interface in one book, let alone one chapter, and so we have necessarily been selective in what we have included. There are many excellent practitioner-oriented handbooks available that cover in more detail design concerns for a particular kind of interface or technology/application (see end of the chapter for examples). These include web, multimedia, and more recently handheld/mobile technology design. Here, we provide an overview of some of the key research and design concerns for a selection of interfaces, some of which are only briefly touched upon while others, that are more established in interaction design, are described in depth. Nevertheless, the chapter is much longer than the others in the book and can be read in sections or simply dipped into to find out about a particular type of interface.

The main aims of this chapter are to:

  • To introduce the notion of a paradigm and set the scene for how the various interfaces
    have developed in interaction design.

  • To overview the many different kinds of interfaces.

  • To highlight the main design and research issues for each of the different interfaces.

  • To consider which interface is best for a given application or activity.